It is with a sense of the great love of our Lord Jesus in giving this remembrance of Himself to us (1Cor. 11), that one would seek to give this little outline.
Perhaps the initial question should be, “With whom should I break bread?” At this point one would emphasize the absolute and fixed unchangeableness of God’s principles. To begin we refer to the first mention of the act of breaking bread, after its initiation by our Lord. In Acts 2: 42, “they continued steadfastly in the doctrine and fellowship of the apostles, and in breaking of bread and of prayers.” We see a distinct circle who broke bread together composed of those continuing in the doctrine and fellowship of the apostles. It is those whom the Lord gathered as we note in Acts 2: 47, “the Lord added to the church;” in Acts 11: 24, “much people added to the Lord;” and in 1 Cor. 1: 2, “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It is thus clearly set out that it is the Lord Himself who is the center and gathering point. We break bread in remembrance of Him and so show forth His death until He comes--not His life, or His glory or His coming again, but the wonder of His death. That death and His cross were the last observations that this world had of Him. He is the One this world cast out and crucified and it is He with whom we are now associated. In the breaking of bread, we are identified with the death of this One who has left this world behind and is now at the right hand of God. We too, have died to this world in His death; as He is risen, so we are linked with Him, and have now received that life which He resumed in resurrection and which we know as eternal life.
We well know that the company of believers seen in the early church was all one--no breakdown or failure, certainly not the divided, ruined state seen today in Christendom. But that failure is on man’s side. God is faithful and, as noted above, His principles are unchanging. Those who form the circle today, in God’s sight, are still all those added to the Lord. But not all today are in the doctrine and fellowship of the apostles. The Lord has given us clear instruction for the conditions today (see 2 Tim. 2:19-22). In principle then, those who would be found in the company and those who call upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart are the same persons seen in Acts 2. Externally the breakdown is evident, and we cannot think it possible to restore things to their original condition. However, we can, recognizing our failure and our part in the ruin, return to those conditions where we can be conscious of the Lord’s presence amongst us as gathered to Him. The disciples in John 20 recognized Him when He showed His hands and side, and they knew His peace. What a circle of divine love! And it is into this circle He would draw us today.
Now we may ask, “How do I recognize this circle or enter into it?” Let it be clearly stated that every believer on the Lord Jesus has title to it. Sadly, not all are prepared to enter into it. Even in Paul’s day we read, “Those of Asia have turned away” (2 Tim 1:15). No doubt they were Christians, but they gave up their position of association with a heavenly Christ, and they went on with their own affairs and left the apostle in prison and isolation.
While many Christians today do not identify with the rejected Lord, even though He is now glorified, this does not in any way curtail the circle of fellowship. Entrance into the public circle of fellowship is based upon commendation; therefore, those commending have a great responsibility and require spiritual discernment. What understanding or position should be looked for? One person may have intelligence as to the truth without any reality, while another who has been truly saved may not be able to satisfactorily express things to an enquirer. Thus many mistakes have been made. Some truly exercised souls have been hindered while more pretentious persons have been put forward, both situations grieving the Lord. Perhaps the real key to the position is found in Rom. 5:5, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” This verse is given to us immediately upon the unfolding of the truth of being justified. Likewise in Eph. 1:3, the Spirit is given following belief of the gospel. So what is looked for is rather the evidence that, first, the Spirit of God is in the soul, causing a simple appropriation of the work of Christ, which leads to attachment to Him (“to you therefore who believe He is precious”); and second, that the subduing power of the love of God is displayed in the life. It is these things which should mark those who seek reception into this circle, and in this simplicity the soul will be led on, not in the coldness and shade of an outside place, but in the warmth and light of Christian fellowship. These persons, appreciating and seeking to answer to the Lord’s love, enter into the meaning and blessedness of the “breaking of bread,” and other truths associated with the Lord’s Supper will gradually be formed in the heart and mind--and the Spirit, having liberty, will lead into all truth.